The latest insights and innovations from the world of marketing. Includes analysis of the decision by cosmetics brand Lush to vacate social media, examines why playing it safe is not the safe option, and test-drives the latest automated writing tool.
This article was originally published in Direct Marketing International in 2008. A collection of Herschell Gordon Lewis’ works is available in our free eBook: Killer Copy in a Crisis. Download this treasure trove of timeless marketing advice.
Why am I contacting you, of all people
The creeping blight of hyper-specialisation has a nasty by-product we have to avoid if we’re worthy of the title Professional Communicator.
That side-effect or ‘obbligato’ theme or whatever we might choose to label it, is the splitting of responsibility.
- I write copy for you. My job is finished and I go on to the next project.
- She designs the advert or the mailer. Her job is finished and she goes on to the next project.
- They supply lists, based on what demographic they think an offer of this type might find attractive. Their job is finished and they go on to the next project.
- The printer finds paper stock and runs the job. The printer’s job is finished, and that supplier goes on to the next job.
The mailing fails. Who takes any responsibility for the flop? Nobody.
That’s quite in sync with current sociology as well as commerce – nobody is responsible.
I murder my neighbour. Hey, it isn’t my fault: I had an unpleasant childhood.
You angrily drive a truck into a group of children. Hey, it isn’t your fault: Your spouse spilled coffee on the carpet this morning and the coffee had cream, which means it may leave a permanent stain.
Let the sociologists (and the law) deal with those aberrations.
We’re on a professional plateau, and part of professionalism – a big part of professionalism – is not only sharing responsibility but assuming responsibility.
It isn’t all that complicated
The production artist or designer who pleases his or her mirror instead of designing for maximum appeal to specific targets isn’t a professional production artist or designer.
The list company that chooses lists because of fear they’ll lose a list owner if they don’t recommend this one, or because somebody in the office has a relationship with one of the companies whose list is available, isn’t a professional list company.
The printer who chooses a paper because he has a pallet of that paper stock on the floor, when a different stock might better enhance the offer, isn’t a professional printing source.
Every supplier, internal and external, contributes positively or negatively to the ultimate result.
My copy was too. . . her layouts didn’t lend emphasis where emphasis should have been . . . the lists were used to death on competing offers before ours popped up . . . using newsprint instead of heavy enamel would have had greater verisimilitude.
Or, my copy was on target. The layouts and illustrations matched. The lists were targeted. The recipient looked at the mailing and decided to open it instead of tossing it into the circular file.
Response may not have been optimal, but absolutely and positively it would have been greater than response to a mailing that reflected a bunch of disconnected pieces.
A system for all media
You say your webmaster wants control over the way your email and home page will look? Oh? Is your webmaster thinking of response or of showing off technical skills?
You say your advertising agency wants your adverts to be in full colour because that way they’ll stand out more, and they’re recommending a publication whose rates are formidable? Oh?
Is the periodical loaded with full-colour ads, so a two-colour ad actually might seize more eye-attention, and has the agency actually negotiated rates on your behalf?
Times are tough. In fact, times always are tough. But we’re supposed to be professionals and we should care about one factor and only that factor: maximising response. Does that conclusion seem hard-boiled, calloused, coldly analytical?
Let’s have more of it . . . and we’ll have more reason to claim the title Professional.
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